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HP Software's community for IT leaders // July 2014

Ops leaders face pivot to DevOps

Remember where you were on cloud five years ago? That’s DevOps today. HP Software VP Roy Ritthaler surveys the landscape—and charts a course.

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Mobile commerce brought about revolutionary change in how businesses interact with their customers and in how employees interact with businesses. Agile—with its massive development efficiencies—was ready to respond by helping organizations quickly produce apps and be more responsive to customer demands. But a problem soon emerged: developers were working quickly, but ops and delivery were still slow. That bottleneck meant that innovative apps weren’t getting to the marketplace much faster than before.

Today, DevOps is proliferating as a way to keep the rest of the delivery chain running smoothly—and it’s beginning to make inroads into the enterprise. For operations leaders, that is a new challenge. HP Software Vice President Roy Ritthaler tells us how he sees enterprise IT—and ops leaders in particular—grappling with DevOps, and what late adopters can do to catch up.

Q: How quickly are enterprises adopting DevOps?

Roy Ritthaler: One barometer for enterprise adoption of technology is how much Gartner covers them. Gartner really started serious coverage of DevOps roughly four or five years ago. It was revolutionary to enterprise clients at that time. But now, the majority of enterprise customers are looking at recalibrating their processes and streamlining through a DevOps approach. A lot of them need guidance, but I’d say DevOps has crossed the mainstream threshold within the last year.

Q: It might officially be mainstream, but there are a lot of organizations that haven’t started. What can you do when you’re a little late to the game?

RR: There are a couple of ways to do it. You can follow what I call the 80-20 rule, which is to focus on the top of pyramid—the 20 percent of apps that need rapid application development and require responsive design for the end user. For example, GM’s OnStar. That’s an app that requires a lot of work and is at the top of pyramid for customer satisfaction, loyalty, and revenue generation. Work fast on those core mobile apps that drive the most visibility and revenue, and don’t worry about the legacy-oriented or more stable environments for now.

Q: Is that how we typically see DevOps happening in an enterprise? First in discrete groups, then growing to the broader organization?

RR: That’s the primary way we’ve seen it in the Americas. There is another way we see it evolve in EMEA, and that’s a more architected and holistic approach. Here DevOps is seen as an enterprise initiative—a distinctive competency that the whole company needs. It’s managed and designed with both apps groups and central IT. They’ll first go through an application portfolio assessment to understand which apps need it, and then do process design and process optimization.

Q: How do you know which approach is best for your organization?

RR: That depends on two things. First, your understanding of, and closeness to, the marketplace. The better you understand your customers and marketplace, the more you can move into broad adoption of DevOps. Second, IT maturity—and that’s hard to come by. Organizations that have more mature processes and governance will have a better ability to tackle DevOps broadly, and those with less maturity need to approach DevOps more narrowly.

There’s one special case: the all-online or all-mobile organization. They’re a special breed. They have a narrow focus that consumes the entire company—this laser focus on customers and the business. So they can go broadly and company-wide, even if they’re a younger and less mature startup.

Q: Do you have a feeling for which is the approach more likely to be successful down the road?

RR: I’m a fan of having your feet on the ground. If you can tackle it on a macro scale, that will entail the least amount of rework in the long run. But the worst thing you can do is overestimate and try to do too much. It is so easy to convince yourself that you can do this on a broad scale because you think you’re better than you are, or you think you understand your customers better than you really do.

The baseline recommendation I always give customers is to do it a chunk at a time. If you pick your targets right—the highest revenue apps, for example—then you’ll get ROI at every stage. You’ll see clear business benefits, and that will help you fund the next stage.

To understand the challenges in closing the gap between development and operations, read the white paper, "Target the Disconnects Between Development and Operations" (reg. req’d).


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